University of California • Berkeley
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purposes. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for
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Requests for permission to quote for publication
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The Bancroft Library University of California/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
A CAREER IN THE WINE INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK
Sydney J. Block
SELLING CALIFORNIA WINES IN NEW ORLEANS
Interviews Conducted by
1976 by The Regents of the University of California
The California Wine Industry Oral History Series, a
project of the Regional Oral History Office, was initiated
in 1969» the year noted as the bicentenary of continuous
wine making in this state. It was undertaken through the
action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board,
and under the direction of University of California faculty
and staff advisors at Berkeley and Davis.
The purpose of the series is to record and preserve
information on California grape growing and wine making that
has existed only in the memories of wine men. In some cases
their recollections go back to the early years of this
century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of
particular value because the Prohibition period saw the
disruption of not only the Industry itself but also the
orderly recording and preservation of records of its
activities. Little has been written about the Industry from
late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real
paucity of Information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933),
although some wine making did continue under supervision of
the Prohibition Department. The material in this series on
that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as
yet treated analytically in few writings) will be of aid to
historians. Of particular value is the fact that frequently
several individuals have discussed the same subjects and
events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from
his own point of view.
Research underlying the interviews has been conducted
principally in the University libraries at Berkeley and
Davis, the California State Library, and in the library of
the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in
many cases unique materials readily available for the
Three master indices for the entire series are being
prepared, one of general subjects, one of wines, one of
grapes by variety. These will be available to researchers
at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral History
Office and at the library of the Wine Institute.
The Regional Oral History Office was established to
tape record autobiographical Interviews with persons who
have contributed significantly to recent California history,
The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is under the
administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the Director
of The Bancroft Library.
California Wine Industry
Oral History Series
1 March 1971
Regional Oral History Office
^86 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
California Wine Industry Oral History Project
A CAREER IN THE WINE INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK AND CALIFORNIA
An Interview Conducted by
(c) 1976 by The Regents of the University of California
Victor Repetto at time of interview, 13 March 1970
Photograph by Catherine Harroun
TABLE OF CONTENTS - Victor Repetto
CALIFORNIA GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY
THE PROHIBITION PERIOD 5
JOSEPH DI GIORGIO AND THE GUASTI FAMILY 7
THE REPEAL PERIOD 10
SINCE 1942 12
The interview with Victor Repetto was held at his home at Redwood City,
California, on March 13, 1970. A preliminary discussion had been held in San
Francisco at the interviewer's studio the previous week; a mutual acquaintance
brought Mr. Repetto there to reminisce about Joseph Di Giorgio and other wine
men of his period.
Mr. Repetto, then aged 75, was still in fairly good health at the time of
the interview and, although unprepared to answer some specific questions about
matters long past, enjoyed recalling his part in wine industry affairs over the
years. By the time the transcript of the interview was sent to him some months
later, however, his health had declined, his eyesight was poor, and he was unable
to undertake a careful reading of the text. He indicated, however, a desire to
delete certain sections which he had intended as simply informal conversation
with the interviewer. A shortened version was then prepared by the interviewer,
but his health prevented its being read to him. Finally, following the death of
Mr. Repetto on August 31, 1973, his attorney and friend Angelo Scampini made the
final editing of the interview as it appears here. He made a few minor changes
and formalized some of the wording.
Victor Repetto had, as he indicated in the interview, played a part in
industry negotiations and operations that are discussed more fully in Horace 0.
Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and Other Wine Enterprises,
a Regional Oral History Office interview in this series completed in 1971. Mr.
Repetto also mentioned in this interview his early experiences with Italian Swiss
Colony, an organization discussed at greater length in Edmund A. Rossi, Italian
Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry, another interview in this series completed in
1971. Other matters upon which Mr. Repetto commented and shed light are discussed
in other interviews and can be traced through the series index.
Following Mr. Repetto 's retirement from the wine industry he was active
for some years in the real estate business in San Francisco.
3 March 1976
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Obituary Notices, Victor Repetto
From San Francisco Chronicle
REPETTO. Victor — In Redwood
City, August 31. 1973, Victor Re-
potto, beloved husband of Myrtle
Repetto. Redwood City, loving fa
ther of Mrs. Elena Gannon of
Tempe. Ariz, and Victor Repetto
of Santa Clara: also survived by
nine grandchildren and four great
grandchildren; a native of New
York City, aged 78 years; a mem
ber of San Mateo County Sheriff's
Mounted Patrol: Redwood City
Elks Lodge No. 1991 B.P.O.E. and
Il-Cenacolo of San Francisco.
Funeral services will be held
SJH?_SM SNEIDER & SULLIVAN
FUNERAL HOME. 977 So. El Ca-
mmo Real, San Mateo, on Tues
day, September 4, at 10:30 a.m.
thence to St. Matthew's Catholic
Church. San Mateo, for a Requi
em Mass commencing at 11 a.m.
Recitation of the Rosary Monday
evening at 7:30 o'clock. Private
entombment. Holy Cross Ceme
Victor Repetto, 78, of 839
Blandiord Blvd.. Redwood City,
died yesterday at Sequoia Hos
pital in Redwood City. He was
the former owner of the Califor
nia Grape Products Co.
A native of New York City, he
had retired some time ago.
Repetto had lived in San Ma
teo County for 33 years.
He was a member of the San
Mateo -County Sheriffs-Mounted
Patrol, the Redwood City Elks
Lodge No. 1991. andll-Cenacoio.
a- San Francisco organization.
Surviving is his widow. Mrs.
Myrtle Repetto of Redwood
City, a daughter. Mrs. Elena
Gannon of Tempe-, Ariz., son,
Victor of Santa Clara, nine
grandchildren and four great
Sen-ices will begin at 10:30
a.m. Tuesday from the Sneider
?nd Sullivan Funeral Home. A
Reouiem Mass will start at 11
a.m. at St. Matthew's Catholic
rhurch. The Rosarv will be re
cited at the mortuary chaoel
Mondav ni?ht at 7:30. Private
.entCTibment'wiH follow at Holy
(Date of Interview - March 13, 1970)
CALIFORNIA GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY
Teiser: We are looking at a California Grape Products Company brochure
you had made up after Repeal* and it shows the various locations
of its wineries and New York facilities. Was the "Victor" label
named after you?
Repetto: Yes. It was an easy name to remember. My partner, Horace Lanza,
said, "That means victory." This [referring to photograph in
brochure] was our little lab in San Francisco. This was our
bottling operation. Of course, now they've improved bottling
operations, but this was at that time already partly mechanized.
This was in 1933. This picture is in San Francisco, on
Third Street. This was in New York. We had oak casks. We used
to move wine then by barrel. This was really before the tank car
operation. These pictures are in Elk Grove and Ukiah.
*Victor, The Pride of California. A Good Guide to Good Wines,
California Grape Products Company, San Francisco and New York,
A copy has been deposited in The Bancroft Library.
**Photograph with caption, "San Francisco General Office and
Teiser: And here are your bottles.
Repetto: The Owens-Illinois Company made these molds for us.
Teiser: They're special molds, with the state and grapes in relief.
Here's a clipping headed "Repetto Sells His Winery Interests."
December 1, 1942. Let me just read it, may I?
"San Francisco, California .- Victor Repetto, one of the
best known figures in the American wine industry, announced
the sale of his interest in the California Grape Products
Company to Horace 0. Lanza, President of the company. Repetto,
who has been Vice President of the company since 1921, is taking
over the ownership and management of a 640-acre vineyard from
the California Grape Products Company. It consists of choice
wine grapes and is located in Southern Tulare County near
Delano. For the past three years Repetto has resided in
California. During eighteen years prior to this he managed the
New York branch of the California Grape Products Company, dividing
his time equally between the New York and California offices.
He is a member of the board of directors of the Wine Institute,
and was the organizer and chairman of the New York chapter of
the Wine Producer's Association, predecessor of the Institute,
in 1935. His start with the grape and wine industry came in
1915 when he joined the Italian Swiss Colony. He was also one
of the organizers and a director of Fruit Industries, Ltd."
Teiser: I think you told us when we met the other day the date of
Repetto: December 27, 1894.
Teiser: And how did you happen to go into the wine business?
Repetto: Well, I started with Mr. Louis Profumo, assistant manager of
the Italian Swiss Colony, New York City branch. It was on
Washington and West Eleventh Street. Earl Severance was the
manager. He was a nephew of [Andrea E.] Sbarboro.
We had a five or six story building there, and Mr. Sbarboro
used to come there maybe two or three times a year. He was
Secretary of the Italian Swiss Colony under P.C. Rossi. He
would visit us unexpectedly. He was a very agile individual.
I remember him coming up the steps two at a time, without any
one of the management knowing that he was showing up.
Louis Profumo later went with Gel la Brothers, and I also
went with him to Cella Brothers. The Italian Swiss Colony had
decided to close its New York headquarters.
Teiser: Did you have a special interest in the wine industry?
Repetto: No, it was just a job. I had had business school training.
In the Italian Swiss Colony I was credit manager.
Teiser: Do you speak Italian?
Repetto: I understand it. My association has been with Italians, but we
did business with many Germans, and there were a lot of German-
Repetto: Jewish people back in the East through Pennsylvania, and New
York. We had a number of salesmen that represented that line.
In those days they used to travel around and had their certain
areas and territories. In fact, Congressman Emanuel Celler's
father was a salesman whose territory was parts of New York
and Pennsylvania. He lived in Brooklyn. Emanuel Celler himself
was then a young man going to Columbia University, and when his
father died he took over his route to put himself through NYU.
When he finished studying law and started practicing, he became
the attorney for the Italian Swiss Colony, New York branch.
Teiser: After Italian Swiss Colony ceased business in New York, you were
with Cella Brothers two or three years?
Repetto: Not for long. Mr. [Mario P.] Tribune, who was one of the owners
of the California Grape Products Company, offered me a better
job. That was in 1921, and California Grape Products was started
only in 1920, so it was rather a young organization at that
time. Before that the name was Tribune and Garrish. Garrish
separated from it and Tribuno took it over.
THE PROHIBITION PERIOD
Repetto: The company had the vineyard in Ukiah, and we brought over
Professor Monti from Conegliano, Italy, who had a vacuum pan
process for making concentrate, which we called "Caligrapo."
It would not ferment. People could put back three parts of
water to one part of concentrate and ferment that. The law at
that time* permitted an individual to make in his own household
two hundred gallons of wine per year.
Teiser: In what kind of containers did it go out?
Repetto: It was sold in little oak kegs of five and ten gallons. In the
beginning, though, before that, we had Continental Can make a
number ten tin from re -enameled sheets, and sold it in cans.
Teiser: When did you become associated with Mr. Lanza?
Repetto: In 1929. Business was in trouble all over the country, you
remember. Mr. Mario Tribune wanted to get out of the company
and asked me to go to California. I did, and got in touch with
Horace Lanza. I said, "I think I've got something to offer
you that's a bargain: Mario wants to get out of this business."
I invited him to come in as a partner. He finally agreed to
come into the California Grape Products Company, and then I
had to go back and complete the deal with Mr. Tribuno. That's
Repetto: how Horace Lanza and I became partners.*
Teiser: By the time that Mr. Lanza came into the company then, the
company owned quite a few properties besides the Ukiah one?
Repetto: Yes. We had Ukiah and Delano, as you'll see in the booklet,
and Windsor, St. Helena and Napa; a little distillery up in the
city of Napa. St. Helena was the old Schilling ranch. Beautiful
location. They grew all of the white grapes.
Teiser: Let me ask you--I have no idea what Mr. Mario P. Tribuno looked
like, or acted like or was like...
Repetto: He stood about 5 1 8" to 9". He was born in Asti, Italy, and his
uncle, Pietro Rossi, had him come over as a young man, and put
him to work at Asti. Mario was a chemist--not by schooling, but
by experience. He developed one of the very well-known vermouths
on the market today, the Tribuno vermouth.
That vermouth was developed at our West Broadway address in
the Pisano-Montresor Building. He would come in the little lab
there, and he would say, "Victor," (he called me out of my office)
"Come in and taste this. See what you think of this." He
would import these different herbs to make these various types
of vermouths, and he would keep making mixtures. Mario always
liked to blend different things together. He also developed the
"Americano." They tell me that in Italy they've also got what
they call the "Americano, with Campari."
*Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi recalled the year the
agreement was signed as 1932. See that interview, pp. 9-10.
JOSEPH DI GIORGIO AND THE GUASTI FAMILY
Teiser: You were acquainted with Joseph Di Giorgio?
Repetto: Oh sure.
Teiser: When did you first meet Mr. Joseph Di Giorgio?
Repetto: I met Joe Di Giorgio when A. P. Giannini started with the
Bancitaly Corporation, around 1920 or 1921. I think that was
my first contact. I know A. P. came to New York to set up the
Bancitaly Corporation, and asked different prominent Italians
to buy stock in the company. Di Giorgio was a great friends of
A. P. Giannini. He introduced A. P. To many prominent Italians
Teiser: Was Mr. Di Giorgio a commanding man, dominating?
Repetto: Oh, yes. He was very domineering, but he knew what he was
talking about. He had set up the Di Giorgio Fruit Company and
he took his two or three brothers into it. He didn f t have any
children, and he schooled all of his nephews, who are prominent
in the firm today.
Mr. Di Giorgio had a terrific business sense. He usually
got what he went after. He had a home in Bakers field, and one
in New York, and then he would always have a suite at the Mark
Teiser: Did he always speak with an accent?
Teiser: Was he difficult to understand?
Repetto: No, he wasn't.
Teiser: Did you know any of the Guasti family?
Repetto: Yes, Secondo was the father. They had their summer home down
at San Bernardino. It was a beautiful one that they built there.
Their other home was in Los Angeles. I went there a number of
times. He had marble shipped over from Italy, from Ferrara; I
remember especially the center hall--it was so fabulous.
Mrs. Guasti 's name was Louisa, and after Mr. Guasti 's
illness she ran the business. I was at her home with Dr. A.H.
Giannini, A. P. 's brother, who was then head of the Bank of
America* in New York. A group of us came out from New York with
Will Hayes, who was the head of the motion picture industry
association, and Eddie Robinson, the actor. We had a private
railroad car all the way from New York City. It was during
Prohibition. We were all invited by Louisa Guasti to a dinner
party, and it was a very swanky affair. Believe it or not, the
table service was solid gold. 1
I remember one thing especially. She said, "Victor, I want
you to take this jar of olives." She prepared green-ripe olives
each year. She'd do it herself; she enjoyed doing those things.
I always called her "Mother." She was just a charming lady.
She handled the office details and negotiations down at San
Bernardino and also ran the house after her husband became ill.
*Then still (until 1930) the Bank of Italy. Dr. Giannini headed
a New York bank owned by Bancitaly Corporation.
Teiser: You mentioned that you called Joseph Di Giorgio "Uncle."
Repetto: I always called him "Uncle." All of his nephews would call
him "Uncle," so I told him, "Joe, I'm going to call you Uncle.
I seem to get along better with you calling you Uncle than
calling you Joe." We used to go out together socially a lot.
He liked movies, and the theatre, and liked going to good
restaurants whenever he was in town.
Teiser: In New York?
Repetto: Sometimes in New York, but mostly in California.
Teiser: He must have been good company.
Repetto: Yes, he was. He was very much alive and he liked good company.
Teiser: You hear of him as a businessman, but you rarely hear about
him as a social man.
Repetto: I enjoyed him socially as much as I did as a businessman.
California Grape Products owed his Earl Fruit Company
which later became the Di Giorgio Fruit Company, a substantial
sum, so I came out to California and sat down with him, and he
was very fair. He said his directors were criticizing him for
keeping this debt on the books; that not enough was being paid
against it. Well, we made a deal to liquidate the debt at a
Di Giorgio left the next day for New York, and he called
up Mr. Tribune and said, "That young man that you sent down
there—he's a little quicker than I am. 1 " [Laughter]
Repetto: Then I went to the Bank of America* and I saw A. P. Giannini
and one of the executive vice presidents. He was the reception
man at the time. A. P. said, "Show him in." He brought me into
his office, and I suggested a plan to pay off our loan to the
bank. (This was in '29, during the Depression period.) A. P.
said to me, "I'm very glad to go along." A. P. had an ability
of judging the human individual, and he apparently did that very
plainly with me. He called in Bill Blauer, who was executive
vice president, and said, "Bill, anything this young man wants,
give him." Just like that.' All I could say was, "Thank you."
THE REPEAL PERIOD
Teiser: We mentioned the other day Donald Conn, and you said that you
had known him.
Repetto: He was a very fast-moving individual, very alert, and a very
good politician. I think he might have been good material for
the governorship of the state of California. If I saw him today
I wouldn't be able to place him, but I was quite impressed with
him in the associations that I had. He brought Harry Caddow
into the picture, and Walter Taylor. We had a terrific freight
car tie-up, and Donald Conn was sent out of Washington by the
government to undo this scramble, and he did the job. After that
he became very active in the grape industry.
*Then still the Bank of Italy.
Repetto: We had a lot of problems with Repeal. That's why I started
the Wine Institute, New York Chapter. I started it up in our
office at 26th Street. I had a meeting of the California grape
growers and wine producers that had offices in New York. Harry
Baccigaluppi was then in California on a business trip; he was
then associated with Colonial Grape products. I said, "We'll
make him the Chairman of the Board." When he came back, I said,
"I would like you to take over the chairmanship." He agreed, and
we set up our offices, and that's how we established the Wine
Institute, New York Chapter.
We would meet about every week at lunch. Some of the boys
felt that they had been in a financial bind for all of the
Prohibition years and they wanted to set up a good price. But
A. P. Giannini told me, "With Repeal, don't you fellows price
yourselves out of the market." So I told them, "We want to keep
up our production. If we raise the price too high, we'll make
it impossible for ordinary people to buy wine."
Teiser: Did you know Mrs. Willebrandt?
Repetto: Yes. Mabel Walker Willebrandt was an assistant U.S. Attorney
General during the Hoover administration. After she left that
job she became attorney for Fruit Industries Inc. She was a
very intelligent, charming lady. I had dinner with her at her
home. She lived in Alexandria, across from Washington, and she
had an office in Los Angeles and one in Washington. When we
TCH YOUR CREDIT.., 50 I 6 |9
INTERNATIONAL Nt JSREEL PHOTO
ILLEBRAhDT VISITOR AT
HOUSE ON MYSTH^IO'JS
'1ASH.D.C. £L VALKER
ATTORNEY OEMhHAL ii\l CHARGE OF
PROHIBITION, PICTURED AFTER
HER CONFE^fcXt YESTERDAY VtTH
P^ESIDE'IT HERBERT HOOVER.
UEITHLR MRS. '^ILLE3RANDT r,IOR
'MITE HOUSE OFFICIALS 'VOUtD
DIVULGE THE 4AT'JRE OF HER CALL.
-20 A3* AH.
Repetto: had meetings with her at her office, she was just as mannish
as any man could be--I mean in her appearance, her dressing.
But socially at home, she was the most feminine person that
you'd want to meet. She had a very charming home. When she
would come to New York, she would call up and we would go out
to dinner, and she would be just charming company. Very
interesting girl. She was a pleasing person to look at, a very
personable woman. She also had a date ranch down at Indio,
and her father then lived with her there. He was a very fine
I remember President Hoover was an ardent Prohibitionist,
but his sons owned a large ranch down at Wasco, southwest of
Delano, where they had vineyards, and we would buy their culls
for making high-proof. We had a Prohibition Department permit,
Teiser: You continued with California Grape Products until 1942?
Teiser: This clipping I read in the beginning says that you were taking
over management of a 640-acre vineyard from the California Grape
Repetto: That was part of the assets I received when I sold my share to
Repetto: Lanza. He paid me so much in cash and I took the 640 acres of
vineyard down in Delano which, after a few years, I sold to
Schenley. They still call it the Repetto Vineyard.
Directly after that, I helped Schenley buy the Di Giorgio
Vineyard in Delano. It had also purchased the Roma Winery.
I said to Uncle Joe, "I think they are interested in some of
your vineyard, because 640 acres is too small for J.t." So he
sold to Schenley, I forget how many hundreds of thousands of
gallons of wine, plus the Delano acreage. It was a cash deal.
Later I helped Schenley arrange some financing with the Bank of
America, and Fred Ferroggiaro became a director of Schenley.
He was executive vice president of the bank at that time.
A little before that, A. P. Giannini was having dinner one
night with the group of us, and he said I was too young to
retire. He asked me to come into the Bank. This was on a
Saturday night, and he said, "Monday morning come in and I'll
have an appointment set up with Mario."
So I went there, and A. P. ushered me into the office and
Mario offered me a desk on the eleventh floor [the officers'
floor of the Bank of America] and a vice presidency. He said,
"You'll start with so much, and you'll be in charge of wine,
liquor, and kindred industries—cooperage and other things that
pertain to the wine business." And I said, "Mario, look, if I
accept this job at this salary, it's going to send my tax bracket
Repetto: up. I'm very grateful to you and your dad for this offer,
but let me make an offer. I'll take the job for one dollar
a year." And he said, 'Victor, you think this over for a few
days, and come back and we'll talk it over again." So I went
back to the second meeting, and he said, "Have you changed your
mind?" And I said, "No, I'm still the same." I couldn't
figure it out any other way. He said, "Then, Victor, that
won't work out." I said, "Why? All you have to do is pay me
my expenses for my traveling and one dollar a year." And he
said, "No, we've got one man at a dollar a year, your good
friend A. P. [laughter], and we don't want any more." I said,
"Well, I appreciate that, Mario. You can rest assured that I
will always work for the Bank of America." In fact I've just
finished seventeen years on the Advisory Board of the A.P.
Giannini Branch down here in San Mateo.
Teiser: Well, you've certainly had an interesting career.
Repetto: It's been a wonderful life. I mean there have been no heartaches
with it. If you think right, and handle things right, the right
thing has to come.
Transcriber: Helen Kratins
Final Typist: Keiko Sugimoto
W V *
J ! WINES
CALIFORNIA GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY are owners, growers, producers and bottlers.
Our vineyard properties are ideally located in the State of California. From the vineyard pictures you will
notice the great difference in the typography of the land.
In the northern part of the State the soil and climatic conditions are ideal for the production of dry red
and white wines. This area is mountainous and depends entirely upon the natural elements. Our northern vine
yards are located at UKIAH, Mendocino County, WINDSOR, Sonoma County, LA PERLA and SPRING MOUN
TAIN, Napa County.
In the southern part of the State, through the San Joaquin Valley, the vineyard properties are ideal for the
production of sweet wines. This area is as flat as a billiard table and mostly irrigated; the climate is warm through
out the year. Our southern vineyards are at DELANO, Kern County.
The CALIFORNIA GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY has imported wine-grape cuttings from the vineyards
of the most famous wine producing areas in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Austria, and consequently
has in its vineyards the varieties of grape which produce the individual types of wine that are recognized in
At our vineyards we have located six wineries with a total storage capacity of FIVE MILLION GALLONS
and two distilleries for brandy production. These wineries are located at UKIAH, WINDSOR, NAPA, ST. HELENA,
ELK GROVE and SAN FRANCISCO-— the distilleries at UKIAH and ELK GROVE.
At UKIAH we produce dry red wines as Claret, Burgundy, Zinfandel, Barbara, etc.; also brandies. At WIND
SOR, dry red wines; at ST. HELENA, dry white wines as Sauterne, Riesling, Chablis, etc.; at NAPA, dry white wines;
at ELK GROVE, sweet wines as Port, Sherry, Muscatel Angelica, Tokay, etc.; also brandies; at DELANO, sweet wines,
and at SAN FRANCISCO we have our storage winery warehouse, bottling plant and general offices. At the latter
location our wines are stored, blended and bottled for the world's markets. In New York a quarter of a million gallon
storage winery warehouse, bottling plant and branch offices are maintained.
In the preceding pages we have tried to give you a brief set-up of the organization of the CALIFORNIA
GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY.
We believe the method to be fundamentally sound for serving the public the finest types of each variety
of California wine produced. BECAUSE EACH WINE IS FROM ITS NATIVE REGION.
Glance at our wine awards since repeal:
1934 GRAND PRIZE AND GOLD MEDAL Florence, Italy
1935 GRAND PRIZE AND GOLD MEDAL London, England
1934 GOLD MEDAL Sacramento, California
1935 GOLD MEDAL Sacramento, California
H I W YORK
*r ^». ie
• 1 >rf3Ofrv
>e products WH.?
com pan u ^^
II 1 lV/yV£V
5,000,000 Gallon Capacity
SAN FRANCISCO - UKIAH
NAPA - • -ELK SROVE
ST. HELENA WINDSOR
2,700 Acres of
UKIAH LA PERLA
DELANO . WINDSOR
KE R.N •Delano
UKIAH, Mendocmo Co.
DRY, RED and WHITE WINES
WINDSOR, Sonoma Co.
DRY RED WINES
ST. HELENA, Napa Co.
DRY WHITE WINES
NAPA, Napa Co.
DRY WHITE WINES
ELK GROVE, Sacramento Co.
SWEET WINES and BRANDIES
DELANO, Kern Co.
• Cities • •
San Francisco General Office and Warehouse
New York Office and Storage Warehouse
• AN FRANCISCO
N ( W T O • K
A Comprehensive and Dependable Line of Wines
Shipping Activities At Ukiah, Calif.
Shipping Activities At Elk Grove, Calif.
INDEX - Victor Repetto
Americano (label), 6
Baccigaluppi, Harry, 11
Bancitaly Corporation, 7, 8
Bank of America, 8, 10, 13, 14
Bank of Italy, 8, 10
Blauer, Bill, 10
Caddow, Harry, 10
California Grape Products Company, 1-4 5 9 11 12
Cella Brothers, 3
Celler, Emanuel, 4
Conn, Donald, 10
Continental Can Company, 5
Di Giorgio Fruit Company, 7, 9
Di Giorgio, Joseph, 7, 8, 9, 13
Di Giorgio Vineyard, 13
Earl Fruit Company, 9
Ferroggiaro, Fred, 13
Fruit Industries, Ltd., 2, 11
Giannini, A.H., 8
Giannini, A. P., 7, 8, 10, 11, 13-14
Giannini, L.M. See Giannini, Mario.
Giannini, Mario, 13-14
Guasti, Louisa (Mrs. Secondo) , 8
Guasti, Secondo, 8
Hayes, Will, 8
Hoover Administration, 11
Hoover, Herbert, 12
Italian Swiss Colony, 2, 3, 4
Lanza, Horace 0., 1, 2, 5, 6, 13
Monti, Professor , 5
Owens-Illinois Company, 2
Profumo, Louis, 3
Repeal, 1, 10-12
Repetto Vineyard, 13
Robinson, Eddie, 8
Roma Winery, 13
Rossi, Petro C. , 6, 13
Sbarboro, Andrea E. , 3
Schenley Distillers, Inc., 13
Schilling ranch, 6
Severance, Earl, 3
Taylor, Walter, 10
Tribuno and Garrish, 4
Tribuno, Mario P., 4, 5, 6, 9
Victor (label), 1
Willebrandt, Mabel Walker, 11
Wine Institute, New York Chapter, 11
Wine Producer's Association, 2
The Bancroft Library University of California/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
California Wine Industry Oral History Project
Sydney J. Block
SELLING CALIFORNIA WINES IN NEW ORLEANS
An Interview Conducted by
1976 by The Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS - Sydney J. Block
INTERVIEW HISTORY i
THREE GENERATIONS OF BLOCKS 1
THE CALIFORNIA WINE ASSOCIATION'S SECRET DOMINATION 6
"SWEET VINO" 12
LACHMAN & JACOB! AND OTHER PRE-PROHIBITION SHIPPERS 15
THE ROSSI BROTHERS AND A.R. MORROW 23
NEW ORLEANS CUSTOMS 25
MORE CALIFORNIA WINE MEN , 30
THE POST-REPEAL PERIOD 34
THE NEW ORLEANS MARKET IN 1969 37
WINE MERCHANDISING 40
Sydney J. Block of New Orleans was interviewed during a visit in San
Francisco in 1969 at the urgent suggestion of a California wine industry consul
tant who had known him for many years. An affable southern gentleman, who enjoyed
recalling the past, he took time during that visit to meet the interviewer at the
Wine Institute, which allowed the use of a conference room for the taping, on the
afternoon of August 11.
As Mr. Block indicates in the interview, he is a third-generation member
of a New Orleans family that started selling California wines there in the early
1880s. He himself had been in the business for 61 years at the time he was inter
viewed, having started working with his father at the age of sixteen. Thus he
knew the entire span from the pre-Prohibition period to the present, for he has
continued working actively as a New Orleans sales representative for California
In September 1974 a decision was made to transcribe the tape, which had
remained on deposit, and after preliminary editing, mainly deletion of minor
repetitions, it was sent to him to check. Questions regarding clarification of
certain points were sent with it. On July 17, 1975, he returned it with replies
to the questions, and in the following month the editing was completed with the
aid of some further correspondence.
3 March 1976
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
(Date of Interview - August 11, 1969)
THREE GENERATIONS OF BLOCKS
Teiser: To begin the interview, Mr. Block, when were you born?
Block: August 12, 1892.
Teiser: And where were you born?
Block: New Orleans.
Teiser: And your occupation is...
Block: Sales representative for wineries.
My grandfather brought his first barrel of wine into the city
of New Orleans approximately in 1880, and my father continued as
a winery representative after my grandfather's death, and I am the
third generation--! having started in 1908. That's approximately
Teiser: Did your grandfather import wines from Europe?
Block: No. California. In those days the name of the firm was Eddinger
Brothers & Jacobi, later changed to Lachman & Jacobi.*
*The Blocks were apparently dealing with the New York affiliate of
Lachman & Jacobi, Eddinger Brothers & Jacobi, which was bought by
the California company in 1891.
Teiser: And your grandfather was their representative in New Orleans?
Block: That's right.
Teiser: He represented them exclusively?
Block: Oh yes, exclusively.
Teiser: I see. How did he come to make that connection? Do you know?
Block: No, I don't, except that I think in 1878 we had the yellow fever
in New Orleans, which was quite an epidemic, and a few years
after that someone I think suggested, due to the malaria we had
in the New Orleans area, that he bring in some wine from California
for drinking purposes, as well as pleasure, naturally.
Teiser: Was wine supposed to be a protection against yellow fever and
I can recall the names of various firms that were in business
here in California, like George West & Sons. They were a wine
company here, shipping east. And B. Dreyfus & Company. And
Eddinger Brothers & Jacobi were shipping to the New York market
as well as to the New Orleans market.
Teiser: This is your grandfather's time?
Block: That's my grandfather's time.
Teiser: I see. Do I remember that the New Orleans market was the second
largest in the nation (outside California) for California wines?
Block: Yes, it was at one time. That's correct. In the New Orleans
market, when we represented the various wineries, just on one brand
Block: we sold over two million gallons of wine.* In those days it was
mostly claret and burgundy and white wine, and not so much of the
dessert wines because of the predominantly French and Spanish
extraction of the people there. For that reason they were drinking
a lot of the low alcohol wine in those days.
Teiser: Did your father and grandfather feel themselves to be very much
in competition with European wines?
Block: Yes, at that particular time. That is a very good question because
you must remember that we had a lot of the French and German
immigrants who settled in New Orleans, and there was a great deal
of wine brought into New Orleans from Europe in hogsheads in those
Teiser: How much do hogsheads hold?
Block: Sixty-one gallons. And the wholesaler would bottle for the
wealthy French families. So there was competition--a great deal--
with the sale of California wines in that particular time.
Teiser: The buyers wanted wine bottled?
Block: Yes. Well, the wholesaler would bottle it for them free, you see,
and then send it to the home in those days.
Teiser: Were California wines bottled also?
Block: Yes. That's very interesting, because we had what we call family
delivery services. To my memory there were approximately seventeen
companies that were delivering wine to the homes that had standing
orders every day or every week for their red wine and their white wine
*Each year. See p. 26.
Teiser: Not in barrels but in bottles?
Block: It would be brought in in barrels, and then it would be bottled
by the wholesalers into the gallons, half -gallons and fifths—well,
I should say quarts. In those days we didn't have fifths.
Teiser: Were both European and California wines handled this way?
Teiser: When did the fifth come in, incidentally?
Block: Well, the fifth came in at the time of the war, of the last war,*
by the distilleries, and we finally followed suit, so as to
conserve the sale, frankly, of wines due to the shortage.
Teiser: You were starting to say how your grandfather happened to get in
business with California wine.
Block: Yes. I'm pretty sure (and I heard it said) that due to the
yellow fever which we had a lot of trouble with--mosquitoes and
malaria down in our section due to the poor sewage --some one
recommended that he get a California wine account for drinking
purposes instead of the water being used by the families. And
that's how he got into the business.
Teiser: What was his name?
Block: Leopold Block. My father was Joseph Block.
Teiser: What was your grandfather doing before that?
Block: Well, he had come over from Germany and was with my father's father-
in-law in the clothing business. And my other grandfather, Calme
*World War II
Block: Lazard, came over from France. So I am really French and German
descent, you see.
Teiser: And he found that there was a good trade for California wines...
Block: Oh yes.
Teiser: Were they cheaper than European wines?
Block: Yes, they were. And frankly, competition was very keen. I would
like to step up a little bit to tell you about the competition
not so much from my grandfather's time but from my father's time,
because in 1906 (if my memory's correct, that was the time of the
earthquake here) I can recall this vividly, that wine was selling
very, very cheap. Extremely so.
Teiser: In New Orleans?
Block: In New Orleans, out of California. In those days we had competi-
tionfrom a firm called French -American Wine Company, which I don't
know whether you've heard about, from Oakville.
Teiser: Yes. Louis M. Martini rented the building in the early '30s.
Block: Then Arthur Lachman finally went into the business --Arthur Lachman
& Company—who was a relative of the Lachman & Jacobi's. And then
we had in competition companies like the Seven Brothers--! don't
think you've heard of them—that's the Rosenblatt brothers. They
were doing business in New Orleans from here.
Teiser: Did they produce wine here?
Block: Oh yes, yes, the Old Abbey brand, and shipped it into New Orleans
in barrels, incidentally, right from California here. And they
Block: also produced cordials.
Teiser: Where were their vineyards?
Block: Up north. And they were very active.
THE CALIFORNIA WINE ASSOCIATION'S SECRET DOMINATION
Block: I think I better tell you about the time between that period of
1906 and Prohibition, which I think is very interesting. Finally
the firm was changed from Eddinger Brothers & Jacobi to Lachman
& Jacobi.* My father was the agent for Lachman & Jacobi, and I
worked with my father starting in 1908. Now we had as competitors
Italian Swiss Colony, C. Schilling & Company, Brun & Chaix, and also
the California Wine Association, which had their own brand. (What
I am going to say to you after is about these firms.) Then our
main competitor was Secondo Guasti down at Guasti, and also Mr. A.
Mattei down at Fresno, who was quite a competitor of ours, and I
should say of all the winery representatives in the New Orleans
area. Now, I am telling you this as I see it in an informal way,
and I think that's the way you'd like to have it.
Block: Well, this is going to sound. . .well, it's realistic in its sense
and at the same time, why it's hard to understand: I didn't know
who I was working for. I had Lachman & Jacobi, but frankly Mr. [A.R.]
See note page 1.
Morrow was my superior officer; we were all in a combine in those
days and I did not know it. 1
Oh, yes. 1 The California Wine Association. 1 *
[Laughter] I don't know whether you would like to hear a few
incidents that happened to me about that.
I certainly would. Do you mean to say that this was after the
California Wine Association was formed but you were not informed;
you didn't know about it?
Well, we were informed and we were not informed, because of a trust
deal, let's put it that way. Now, there was Swiss Colony, and C.
Schilling, and Brun & Chaix (incidentally the name of their winery,
Nouveau Medoc, was very interesting; they copied it after the
French commune. I don't know whether you knew that or not. They
shipped from Oakville.) Well, frankly, we were all in this deal,
and all acting as independent brokers in the New Orleans market,
and everybody out here as well.
You mean there were other brokers in the New Orleans market
representing all these other wineries which were all actually part
of California Wine Association?
*The reference here and in the account that follows is to the fact
that the wine companies mentioned had, without making public announce
ments, become part of or dominated by the California Wine Association.
A.R. Morrow was general superintendent and later general manager of
the California Wine Association. See material on file in the Wine
Institute library and also Ernest Penihou and Sidney Greenleaf, Wine-
making in California, III. The California Wine Association, [ San
Francisco] : The Porpoise Bookshop, 1954.
Block: Well, as I say, Mr. Morrow was my superior officer, and we
had a little disagreement one time relative to an amount of money.
Instead of calling Mr. Morrow or sending him a wire, I waited
until I got to Lafayette, Louisiana, and I sent him a wire that
I was on my way to San Francisco. And when I got here, Mr. Morrow
said, "They're very sore at you, Syd. You'll have to go over to
see Mr. Sutro at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro."
So I said, "Well, who is Mr. Sutro?" I had never heard of
"Well, he's the chairman of the board."*
I said, "Well, all right. Have you got an appointment with
And he said, "Yes."
"What time?" I went over the next morning and I walked into
Mr. Sutro 's office. Mr. Sutro looked at me and he said, "You've
come a long ways."
And I said, "Yes. There's a little disagreement about money-
commissions strictly, and frankly I'm ready to leave you."
So he said, 'Vhere are you going?"
*Alfred Sutro was for a time a member of the board of directors of
California Wine Association and may well have been chairman for a
period; the organization's records for this period are incomplete.
Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro were its attorneys during the years
Block: And I said, "Well, I'm going with Mr. Guasti.* In fact he
saw me before I left New Orleans."
And he said, "Wait a minute." And he rang Mr. Morrow and he
said, "Give that kid $2600 and send him back home." [Laughter]
Actually that's the way it happened. He said, "Never mind about
Guasti. You stay right where you are." Well, I was doing a
tremendous business, as I say, for Lachman & Jacobi.
Teiser: About what year was that?
Block: I don't recall exactly the year. But anyway, I went home, and it
wasn't very long after that when this other incident came up. I was
in my office. My father had passed on,** and I was representing
Lachman & Jacobi--you really want to hear these various incidents?
Teiser: I do indeed.
Block: ...and the government man walked in and he said to me, "You Mr.
And I said, "Yes." He showed me his credentials, and he said
to me, "I want all the letters that are in your possession that
were written to your father and to you by Lachman & Jacobi," and so
on and so forth.
I said, "Why?"
*Secondo Guasti, head of the Italian Vineyard Company in the
Cucamonga Valley, Southern California.
**Joseph Block died August 5, 1914.
Block: And he said, "Well, I don't know. You'll have to see the
I said, "Well, let me get in touch with my lawyer."
He said, "No, this is supposed to be incommunicado."
So I said, "Well, what have I done?"
He said, "I don't know."
So I went over to the district attorney's office and they
asked me some questions: "Why is it that you had the same price
as your competitors on such-and-such a day?" I said I couldn't
answer, which was true. And finally they paid me a dollar and a
half for being a witness against my own firm, [laughter] which made
it very embarrassing. So I rang Mr. Morrow, and I said, "Mr. Morrow,
I've got a dollar and a half in my pocket and I'm scared to clear
the check." [Laughter]
So he said, "Syd, what's the trouble?" And I told him. And
he said, "Sit down and don't worry about it."
I said, "Veil, I am worried about it. They got all my letters.
They got my father's letters, copies of my letters over in the
district attorney's office." Well, it wasn't long after that when
the barrels were all marked "capital stock owned by California
Wine Association, Lachman Jacobi Brand," "C. Schilling & Company
Brand," or "Italian Swiss Colony Brand," and it was all clarified.
And I don't mind telling you I felt very good.
Teiser: I'll bet so. They finally acknowledged C.W.A. ownership of them.
Block: We continued right from there, and I represented Lachman & Jacobi
until the time of Prohibition.
Teiser: Did you then continue representing them in competition with the
other labels of the California Wine Association?
Block: Yes. However, one or two pulled out of the market, but C. Schilling
remained; Italian Swiss Colony remained; and California Wine
Association remained in the market. And then we had, as I said
before, Mr. Guasti and Mattei, who were very large factors in the
market, very large competitors.
Now we were shipping in those days naturally in barrels, and
the fifty gallon barrels were costing in those days $3.75 per
barrel j* We used to ship a lot of wine from Petaluma, Lachman &
Jacobi. And then we had a depot over here at Winehaven f* and very
often we shipped by boat until we had trouble with fermentation
due to the wine being placed by the boiler. So, you see, we dis
continued the use of the boat. I can recall one shipment we had
fifteen hundred barrels of wine that just absolutely fermented.
As you know, an oak barrel is very, very hard --oak is very hard wood-
and it just blew the heads right out of the barrels.
After that we went into tank cars.
Teiser: About when was that? When did you go into tank cars?
Block: Well, the California Wine Association formed a company called the
Block: California Dispatch Line--CDL-- and these were very improvised
cars. It is very interesting, because they were very hard to
unload. They originally had placed six tanks, one thousand gallon
each, in a PFE (Pacific Fruit Express) car in which the tanks were
very close to the sides of the car, and we had a very hard time
coupling the hose to the tanks to unload.
Teiser: The CDL cars were better?
Block: No. They were nothing more than the PFE cars under another name.
I was a manager of this line at a dollar a year, which
enabled me to get on the trains for nothing and to come out here,
you know, which made it very nice. But anyway, we used those tank
cars for many years.*
Frankly, the wine business — and I'm giving you this primarily
for the New Orleans market --has always been very good.
Block: We had a wine that is now just beginning to find its way around
the country in proper form, or, I should say, in its true state --
as to the real name of the wine. Many years gone by at Petaluma,
Mr. Sam Ciprico,** who was the manager of the Lachman & Jacobi plant
*See also p. 40.
**Eugene S. Ciprico
Block: up there, had some wine up there that he didn't think possibly
could be used in other sections of the country. He sent us down
a sample, and it was a light pink wine. It resembles the Italian
wines that we used barrel brands on such as 'Vino Sicilia," which
is Sicilian type, and 'Vino Seel to," which means good wine, and
'Vino d'Asti." We sold these to the Italian trade for years and
years. And, funny as it may seem, and I want to say this about my
good friend Leon Adams--he came to New Orleans one trip (he was
making a survey for Mr. Ernie Gallo) and he came to my office and
he said, "Syd, I'm making a survey for Ernie Gallo on rose*."
And I said, "Well, Leon, I'd be very happy to bring you a
rose 1 that I've been selling down here for years and years and years
He said, "You have?"
And I said, "Yes."
He said, "What is it?"
"Sweet vino." And when I brought it to him, he was amazed at
the sample. He was amazed.
He said, "Well, I'd never have believed it." Now this vino is
practically the same as the blend of rose* that's made today. I
don't mean the high premium wines, now; I'm talking of vin ordinaire
So I've been selling that, and we're still selling it in the New
Teiser: And you're still calling it...?
Block: "Sweet vino."
Teiser: It was being blended here all the time?
Teiser: But never coming onto this market?
Block: Oh, no. Not only that, but frankly, 99 per cent of the markets
of the United States don't know "sweet vino." However lately
Mr. Gallo has started a "sweet vino" label in my market. However,
he's got a different wine. And Swiss Colony's got a "sweet vino."
But the "sweet vino" was really primarily a New Orleans deal that
was sold to the Italian trade sweetened up a little bit, and it
was the equivalent, really--if you were drinking rose" today you
couldn't tell the difference. In fact Leon was surprised.
Teiser: Was it sweeter than our ordinary rose"?
Block: Well, just about one degree in sugar sweeter, that's about all.
Not very much.
Teiser: Do you think that it's a wine that goes well in warm climates?
Has that had something to do with it?
Block: Well, yes, I think so, because being light in those days...
They're now saying rose" is an all-purpose wine; it's a light wine.
And we sold that as far back as pre-Prohibition days. So Leon Adams
thought that was very interesting, and he said, "I can't believe it,"
when I brought into my office two bottles to show him.
Teiser: Have you historically had other wines in the New Orleans market that
have been peculiar to that market? That haven't been distributed here?
Block: No, no. That's the only one, frankly. We had been predominantly
a red and white wine market before the Prohibition era. And we
sold a lot of muscatel. Of course since Repeal, why it's changed
somewhat. We're selling a lot of white port now, and muscatel
isn't as popular, but the "sweet vino" still continues to go, and
I think it's a matter of being predominantly a New Orleans deal
which has been handed down.
LACHMAN & JACOBI AND OTHER PRE- PROHIBIT ION SHIPPERS
Teiser: And Lachman & Jacobi had...
Block: They were the ones that started it. So I really say openly that
I think Lachman & Jacobi, while they didn't call it rose", they
turned out a wine which I'd say is the next thing to rose".
When Prohibition came into effect, I came out here to buy the
L&J label, Lachman & Jacobi label. And Mr. Jacobi said, "Syd,
don't do that. Buy the common stock of the California Wine Associa
tion." Because it controlled the land and so forth. And the stock
did go up. But I did make a mistake that I didn't buy the L&J label,
I wanted to a great deal for sentimental reasons --my family put it
into the New Orleans market. And, too, I thought maybe one of these
days (and that was the purpose of my visit) that Prohibition would
come to an end. But he talked me out of it, in a very nice way,
I don't mean anything distasteful; and naturally it became a part
Block: of the Fruit Industries.* So when Repeal took place, the first
thing they did at Fruit Industries (I did not go with Fruit
Industries; however Mr. Morrow did want me to associate myself
with them, but I went with Mr. Rossi**and the Swiss Colony) and
the first thing that they did was to place that old Lachman &
Jacobi, or L&J label, back into the New Orleans market, and it's
still a good seller. [Laughter] Isn't that very interesting?
Teiser: I should say.
Block: Yes. I think it is, because it shows you that that brand was
embedded in the minds of the older people who handed it down to
the children, and the label is still good in New Orleans. And
Perelli-Minetti of California Wine Association, who owns it, is
still shipping L&J wine into the New Orleans market.
This will be of interest to you. I think it is. Mr. A.
Leonard Jacobi, the son of Jacob J. Jacobi, used to come down to
New Orleans. In fact he spent about a year with me in New Orleans.
Lennie now lives over at a place across here called Belvedere now.***
I was here on one trip and I wrote him that I was at the St. Francis,
and I felt sure he would call me, but I didn't hear from him. He
was a son. He was in the business, and as I say, he spent a year
*Fruit Industries, Ltd. was the successor to the California Wine
Association. It is discussed in other interviews in this series
The name was later changed back to California Wine Association,
which has been owned by the Perelli-Minetti family since 1971.
**See p. 23.
***He died in 1968.
Block: with me and I enjoyed it. The reason he spent this year down
here is that Mr. Jacobi thought it would be a good idea to have
him in the New Orleans office with me--I was a young individual--
and between the two of us we'd hold business after my father passed
on. I was very happy to have Mr. Lennie Jacobi with me. I'll
tell you who he was related to — I know him so well — the MJB Coffee.
Teiser: Oh, Brandenstein.
Block: Yes. I think it was the brother-in-law. Jacob was a man with a
sort of full beard, and a very excellent gentleman and looked upon
me like a second son.
Teiser: Was he primarily a distribution man?
Block: Well, I think there for a while Sam Ciprico, up at Petaluma,
handled most of the business for the blending and the handling of
the wines. That's where we shipped from for L&J. Now, with the
California Wine Association, as I told you, I had wines shipped
from Winehaven, which was over by Richmond.
Teiser: But the one in Petaluma was their winery?
Block: Yes. That's right.
Teiser: And Mr. Jacobi, then...
Block: ...was in San Francisco.
Teiser: Did they have storage facilities in San Francisco?
Block: In Petaluma. I don't recall any here at all. No, they didn't.
Teiser: Did you know Mr. Abraham Lachman also?
Block: No. No, Lachman wasn't active. I never did understand that. And
frankly, I think Arthur Lachman may have been the son, and maybe
there was a little disagreement there. All my dealings were with
Teiser: Did the New Orleans market make up a large part of his total volume?
Block: Yes, it did. That and the New York market. And of course from
New Orleans I used to go to Tampa, Florida, and I did business down
there. But primarily the New Orleans market and the New York
market were the best markets that he had.
Now, [Italian] Swiss Colony did business a little differently
around the country.
Teiser: Yes. Let me ask you a little more about these early people that
Block: Yes, go ahead.
Teiser: B. Dreyfus. Did you know them?
Block: No, that is my grandfather's time--B. Dreyfus & Company. I did not
Teiser: Did you know Arthur Lachman?
Block: I met him only once. I don't recall. He came into New Orleans one
time looking for someone, but I don't recall even what he looked
Now, there was another firm that I forgot to give you that
just came to my mind. Possibly you've heard their name mentioned --
Teiser: Yes, I was going to ask you about them.
Block: Yes, they did business down in New Orleans, and they were very
good. Had good wines too.
Teiser: Did you know the people in that firm?
Block: No, I did not. I knew their agent pretty well in New Orleans,
Mr. Armand Desangles.
Teiser: How about the Rosenblatt brothers? They sound fascinating.* I
never heard anything about them.
Block: Well, I had a very peculiar thing happen. I have been a collector
of wine decanters for many, many years, especially Baccarat crystals,
and I went into an antique store on Sutter Street on one trip, and
I made a purchase. And a gentleman said to me, "I see you're
sending this to New Orleans." I said, "Yes." And he said, "I used
to do business in New Orleans." It was one of the Rosenblatts. He
was the gentleman who waited on me, and he was working in this store.
But they were in business here, and they did very good. They did
I think this is very interesting. We never had any trade
barriers in those days, so if Mr. Rosenblatt decided to ship five
barrels of wine to a hotel or a tavern or a retailer, he did it
right from here. So their business was not with a wholesale
distributor. Rosenblatt did his business with the retailer.
*See p. 5.
Block: Hotels, restaurants and taverns. Entirely different. No, my
business was with the wholesale distributors.
Teiser: Where was the Rosenblatts' winery, do you know?
Block: I never did know, frankly. I know they shipped from here, and
they were very active in my market.
I thought you were going to ask me one question about prices,
which you haven't as yet.
Teiser: Well, answer it, will you?
Block: I sure will. [Laughter] Well, it's very amazing. I was down in
the valley recently, and I said, "I've seen grapes out here at six
dollars a ton, and I've sold red wine for eight cents a gallon, and
I have sold port wine, when we took one item in a little fight we had
going on in the dessert wine business, for twelve and a half cents
a gallon, which is hardly believable. Eight cents a gallon for
good red wine." 1
And I want to say this to you that I think is very interesting.
The wines that French-American and Brun & Chaix and Lachman & Jacobi
turned out in those days—now we're talking primarily of red wines,
not dessert wines—were just par excellence, really and truly. They
were matured without pasteurization. There was no refrigeration.
It was strictly by nature. And I think that the body of the wine
was really far superior to possibly some of the wines we get today.
Nov, not that the wines are not good today, but they are using all
kinds of methods and maybe stretch it a little bit. Well, in those
Block: days the people didn't do that. They went out to establish a name,
and they tried to sell wine, and frankly I do think the wines were
a little bit better. Now, we're not talking about varietals; we're
not talking about premiums; we're talking about the low end of the
So, at the time, wine was shipped into my market at $3.75 for
the barrel, 7 1/2 cents freight a gallon, to the wine sellers as
we called them in New Orleans. There were seventeen that delivered
to the home. Wine was also sold to the grocers in barrels. You'd
come with your bottle and turn on the faucet and pay ten cents a
quart. It was very interesting. So my days have been wonderful,
and frankly I'm very happy to be able to tell you this.
Teiser: You remember details that nobody has written down.
Block: Well, I've had the experience, and frankly when I came back from
school, I got the experience. My wife complains bitterly because
she says everything costs us double. My father laid the law down
that I had to be home for dinner at six o'clock, and eight o'clock
in the morning for work. He handed me a bottle of wine, and he
said, "Here it is, the price is so much." And I said, "Where am I
going?" And he said, "I didn't send for you. You said you wanted
to sell wine. The city is large; there is a lot of wine being
sold, so take the bottle and go out and sell." And that's how I
started in the wine business. Now, when I said my wife says
everything costs us double --my father never gave me anything but a
Block: wine bottle, never a saw or a hammer or a chisel, so I can't do
anything with my hands. [Laughter] And my wife sometimes gets
a little provoked about it. It sounds funny, but it's really true.
But I've been in the wine business ever since.
Teiser: Lachman & Jacobi wine was comparable in quality to what wine we
have here now, would you say?
Block: Well, I don't think I'd like to answer that question properly,
but I'd say this—that I think the wines that we had in the barrel
in those days, like claret, which was primarily the wine that was
sold in the New Orleans marketr-I think that the red wine was
heavier bodied than we're getting today. And the reason for it is,
you must remember that in the New Orleans market we had a lot of
the French that settled in New Orleans and we had a lot of the
Spanish. We've gone through two periods there, French and Spanish,
as you know. And I think for that reason instead of the light -bodied
wines that they're calling for today we had heavier-bodied wines,
which to my way of thinking is better because we're accustomed to
it, that is all. You can get accustomed to the light-bodied wines
Teiser: You said that at the time of Prohibition you bought some stock in
the California Wine Association. Did you go into the shipping
and receiving of grapes during Prohibition?
Block: No. No, I did not go into that. At that time a lot of the land
was sold to K. Arakelian down at Madera, which was the old Swiss Colony
Block: deal, and he made a lot of money out of raisins, because they were
being used for making wine. But I did not go in. And then the
Fruit Industries was formed,* and they had the Guasti juice for
home making purposes, but I didn't handle it. I didn't go in at
all. I did try to do one thing which I wasn't successful in doing
in the New Orleans market, and that was to handle wines for various
members of various congregations, and the government didn't give me
any permit. Now in the Chicago market and New York market, a good
many individuals did go into that and followed right on through.
But I didn't; I wasn't able to get a permit in the New Orleans
market. So I really had to get out of the business.
THE ROSSI BROTHERS AND A. R. MORROW
Teiser: You just waited it out until after Prohibition?
Block: Well, I did and I didn't. I'll tell you what happened. I waited
it out for many, many years, and then finally I knew something was
going on, and I had written to Mr. Rossi and also to Mr. Morrow,
and when I came out here, which was prior to 1933, Mr. Rossi said
to me, 'Veil, Syd, I hope you'll go with us and be associated with
Teiser: Which Mr. Rossi are you speaking of?
Block: Oh, Ed and Bob both. They were starting to make the "tipo" bottles
in a little corrugated shed in San Francisco. And they had some
Block: wine up at Asti. And I just waited, and on December the sixth
they sent me down a good many cars of wine for distribution, and
I had their power of attorney so I could sign checks for rents,
labor and my entire operation in New Orleans, and I was with them
for many years. Fine people, excellent. I enjoyed my association
Teiser: What was Mr. Morrow like?
Block: Morrow? Oh, I thought Al was a very fine gentleman, and of course
I knew Al when he got older, and I knew him as a young man. He
was very, very active and very progressive, and I thought he was
an excellent wine man and a good sales manager. I thought he was a
very good man.
Teiser: He was said to have had a very precise and perceptive ability to
Block: Oh, without a doubt. I think that's right.
At that time I came out here (at the time of my experience
with Mr. Sutro) they were selling a champagne put out by Italian
Swiss Colony, and it was just excellent champagne. And, frankly,
I stayed around for two days extra enjoying myself, and then finally
Al sent me home. You couldn't travel by air in those days, and we
had to go by train, which took quite a while.
Teiser: They didn't put out champagne after Repeal, did they?
Teiser: This was before Prohibition?
Block: Before Prohibition, yes.
Teiser: Mr. Edmund Rossi told about how they happened to make that
Block: Oh, did he? I never did know. It was excellent champagne, very
Teiser: Compared to today's champagne?
Block: Oh, I think so, yes, I do. I think up at Asti they made that wine
special. And Mr. [Enrico] Prati was a wonderful production man,
who I knew very well.
Teiser: What was he like?
Block: Well, Prati was a dynamic individual, and I think he was a man who
I wouldn't say wanted his own way, but he knew what he wanted,
let's put it that way. And I always thought that Prati was a man
that was quality-minded. And frankly, to my way of thinking, he
was an excellent production man, especially on the dry wines. Very,
NEW ORLEANS CUSTOMS
Block: Now I want to tell you those were very interesting days, because
frankly, there was a lot of loyalty, a lot of friendship, and in
my market particularly, the New Orleans market, wine was a by-word
*Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry. A
Regional Oral History Office interview completed in 1971.
Block: I don't think there was a table that didn't have a bottle of wine
for dinner, for the youngsters as well as for the elderly people.
The only way I can express it--in that New Orleans market with
just Lachman & Jacobi, we used to sell over forty thousand barrels
of wine a year. That is over two million gallons.
Teiser: How much of the total market in New Orleans do you think you had?
Block: Well, we were the leading brand there--L&J. I have no way of
telling you that.
Teiser: Do you have any of your old labels, incidentally?
Block: No, I don't, frankly. I don't have any labels at all. But, you
see, we were not so much in labels in those days. We were shipping
in bulk, and everything was sold out of the barrel into bottles.
Teiser: When you bottled it, did you put a label on it?
Block: I didn't bottle. They bottled, the retailer.
Teiser: What did the retailer put on it?
Block: Oh, people would come in with an empty and they'd fill it up for
ten cents; no label, just a cork in the bottle. But there was a
lot of wine sold.
Teiser: How did you establish the name, then, of Lachman and Jacobi, if
you didn't have a label?
Block: Well, that's a very good question, and frankly, I can only answer
that one way. My father and my grandfather were instrumental in
putting a lot of people in business, as, for instance, Uddo-Taormina
Block: which just sold out to the Canadian tobacco company that bought
S&W. My father put Mr. Uddo in business; he put the Taorminas in
business. We had approximately fifteen Italian wholesale houses
who were distributing wine, especially this 'vino that I was telling
you about—the "sweet vino." And then the wholesale grocers used
to handle wine. And of course in those days travel was very hard
for a salesman who had the old drummer's buggy, who would go up
and down the river. And they would ship barrels of wine by
Southern Pacific all through the state — they had the railroads, you
There were no other wholesalers up in the northern part of
the state of Louisiana at all. They were all concentrated right
in New Orleans. And the brand became very popular. They never
called it Lachman & Jacobi; they called it L&J. And the brand is
still good in New Or leans --L&J. It's rather remarkable that it's
gone right on through all these years.
Teiser: During Prohibition nobody stopped drinking very much in New Orleans,
Block: [Laughter] You're right. That's a very good question. You're
right, of course, there was a lot of liquor that came in from the
Bahamas, you know, some good, some bad. But they continued to
drink, that's true.
Teiser: Did the Mafia have a hold on the liquor bootlegging in New Orleans
at that time?
Block: Well I wouldn't say the Mafia. However, let me say this to you,
(I was going to leave this out) we had a lot of murders in our
town with the Mafia in those days, which possibly you heard about.
Teiser: It's where it first came into notice in the United States...
Block: That's right. And there was a firm there that was making wine
out of raisins, by the name of Giacona. I used to sell them a
wine for Lachman & Jacobi. We called it a Mokelumne blend. I
think it was named after the Mokelumne River. They took any name
and called it a blend. It was very, very dark wine, and they
blended it with this raisin wine which was very light, to give it
color. I used to sell them this wine. And the Giaconas had trouble
with the Mafia. And incidentally, at about that time they killed
six Italians at the dinner table, and after that I was frightened
to go down to sell, and I was frightened to go down after I sold
to get the money. [Laughter]
Teiser: Were the Giaconas connected with this killing?
Block: Yes. It was really rough. So I had some very peculiar experiences.
And it was in New Orleans quite a deal at one time, which evidently
you're acquainted with. I think that's where they started, through
the Sicilian crowd that emigrated from Italy. But that experience
with the Giaconas- -I had never carried a gun, but they gave me a
permit to carry a gun. I have never shot a gun right now in my
life, and I was carrying a gun, and really and truly if anybody had
said, "Boo," I'd have jumped, because I was really frightened. But
Block: I was selling a lot of wine to the Giaconas, and they were
dangerous, and the other people were dangerous as well, so we
had a lot of trouble in New Orleans in those days.
Teiser: That was before Prohibition?
Block: Oh, that's what we're talking about--pre-Prohibition days.
Teiser: I believe the Mafia had some connection with bootlegging in the
rest of the country.
Block: Well, not too much in New Orleans during the Prohibition era, no.
We had it before, and they used a lot of muscle there before
Capone ever thought about the word muscle, which was a word that
was used in our territory. And they were pretty rough. But frankly,
it was all among themselves. The killings were among themselves.
Frankly, I enjoyed going down to see Mr. Giacona; I was scared, I
don't mind telling you, because I had to go through an alley to
get to his office and he had a guard right there watching. I had
everything but a password. These things, when you look back,
they're all very interesting, because they become a part of your
experience of an industry. Don't you think that way?
Teiser: And they become part of a whole tapestry of history.
MORE CALIFORNIA WINE MEN
Block: I think Mr. [Edmund] Rossi has been in it a little bit longer than
I have, and I don't know about Mr. [Antonio] Perelli-Minetti.
Teiser: We have interviewed them. They have different points of view though,
Block: Well, I was in a different end. I was at the selling end and they
were in the production end, which made a lot of difference. And
I tell you, I always found out the two very interesting people at
a winery were the chemist and the production man, and the president
should only tell you what to do. I've always managed to get next
to the chemists. I'd go up there and spend a few days with Mr.
Prati* and find out from him what I wanted to know when I was with
[Italian] Swiss Colony, and the same way with Mr. Ciprico up at
Petaluma to find out what was going on up there. Because, after
all, they sell you the finished product, and in those days they
didn't educate the man in the field like they're doing today. You
were on your own. You had to sell it. You had to tell them what
it was all about—either the wine was good or it was not good. And
frankly, it was up to you to go out and produce.
Teiser: You said that Secondo Guasti had come to talk with you in New Orleans,
is that right?
*See also p. 25.
Block: No, his agent, Mr. Harris.*
Teiser: Oh. Did you ever meet Mr. Guasti?
Block: Yes, I did.
Teiser: What was he like?
Block: Very nice gentleman. And I used to know. . .what 's his name?
Teiser: James A. Barlotti, his general manager?
Block: Barlotti. In fact, I knew them all down there. Yes, they wanted
me to go with them when they found out I was having a little
trouble. His New Orleans agent was a man by the name of Tom Harris,
and this is interesting, I think, while it's a little bit off the
subject. Mr. Harris had a beard, and he always wore a Prince
Albert suit and a derby to call on the trade. [Laughter] For the
Italian Vineyard Company, which was Secondo Guasti. That's a fact.
In the New Orleans market he was a very distingue" individual.
Don't you think that's interesting?
Teiser: You didn't have to dress that formally?
Block: No, no. But he did. I just think it was a part of his make-up.
That was always my thought. Every day I'd meet Mr. Harris, and
that time when he knew I was coming to California, knew I was having
a little trouble, he said, "Wait a minute; I'm going to New York."
And he finally went into the New York office, and he wanted me to
*See p. 9.
Block: go with Mr. Guasti to replace him as New Orleans sales
Teiser: What was Mr. Guasti like?
Block: I thought he was an excellent gentleman. He handled himself
very, very well. He used to come to New Orleans.
And Mr. Mattei. I've been down to his plant, and by the way,
that's where I first met—what's his name?--he used to be a United
States gauger. Jones.
Teiser: Lee Jones?
Block: Yes. He was a gauger. That's where I first met Lee Jones. I
used to go into the Fresno area. I used to come out here and make
all the wineries. I'll tell you why I made all the wineries.
Everybody was my friend. And even today, I'm very happy to be
able to tell you, that I don't think there's anybody that comes to
New Orleans from here that doesn't give me a call. And I'm very
proud of it. And I feel like I get the welcome sign when I come
out here. It makes me feel very good. Now ask me any question you
Teiser: I'd like to know your impression of people. What sort of a chap
Block: Well, he was more of a reticent individual, because I think he was
more of an office man. And for that reason I think he wasn't prone
to do too much talking, in my book. I'd say that he was on the
Block: reticent side. But I thought they were very wonderful people,
and I thought Mr. Mattei was as well. And the wines were good.
However, we always had a little expression, "Well, they can't
produce wines down at Guasti like they can up north." But that
didn't hold water, because he did turn out good wines, equal to
those produced in Northern California. He did; he really did in
Everything was done by nature in those days, and he let the
wine age and the wine was good. The wine was all right. He was
making it down at the Guasti plant, and everything was fine.
Teiser: Did you ever know Horace Lanza?
Block: Oh yes. And I know Harry Baccigaluppi and all of them, yes. Of
course I didn't know Mr. Lanza as well as I knew Harry. I've
seen Harry around more, and I've been at meetings with Harry. An
excellent gentleman, by the way. I'm very, very fond of him. I've
never sold for him, but he's an excellent individual. He's very
fine. And I'll tell you, he's a very brilliant man. When he gets
on the podium I think he knows what to say, when to say and how
to say it. I've always enjoyed listening to Mr. Baccigaluppi; I
think he's very good.
THE POST -REPEAL PERIOD
I was a very intimate friend of Hugh and Hall Adams. When they
used to come to New Orleans they were with the Virginia Dare
Company-- Garret t. And frankly, when this Fruit Industries was
formed down here and Garrett went into it, and then when Repeal
took place, I had written Hall and Hugh. Then Al Morrow got in
touch with me. And I came out here and I decided to go with Mr.
Rossi. But I had nothing to do with the CWA* whatsoever after the
Repeal, nothing, because I had gone immediately over with Rossi.
Teiser: Did you stay with Rossi until...
Block: Oh, until he sold out. I managed all their businesses in the New
Orleans deal, and I stayed with Mr. Rossi and I enjoyed my association
with him until he sold out to the National Distillers.
Teiser: When you had to reestablish the market after Repeal, did you start
selling immediately, or did you have a lot of preparation to do,
to build up again to where you had been?
Block: Well, let me say this to you. I was very fortunate, I think, having
lived in New Orleans, and the name of Block being so well known in
the wine business. And when I came out here, Mr. Rossi had agreed
to let me--I think I put about ten cars of wine into a warehouse...
Teiser: Are you speaking of Robert Rossi?
*Fruit Industries, Ltd. took the name California Wine Association
after it purchased its remaining assets.
Block: Robert and Ed.
Teiser: Which of them did most sales?
Block: Well, Bob did most of the handling of sales. And I must have
placed about ten cars of wine in a warehouse in New Orleans that
arrived so that I could sell it on December the sixth, 1933, which
was the day of Repeal. So I established myself right away with
wine, you see, and I had the Italian Swiss Colony then.
Teiser: And was there a waiting market?
Block: Oh, yes. I went through the state, and I established my various
connections, and people were waiting for me. That's really so.
I had one experience, and I think this is a cutie.
I walked into Dave Schuster. He was in Shreveport, Louisiana,
at that time in a wholesale house. And Mr. Schuster knew I was
coming up there and he knew all about me from the Schenley Distillery,
And he said to me, "Mr. Block, I want to go into the wine business.
Send me whatever you think I ought to have in the way of barrels
of various types, so many barrels of this and so many barrels of
And I said, "Mr. Schuster, I really don't like to do business
that way. I'd like to have a confirmed order. You tell me what
So he said, "Well, Mr. Block, I want to tell you, since your
reputation is very good and I understand you're very honest,
whatever you got in mind to ship me, you cut it in half." [Laughter]
Block: I'll never forget that story. It kind of took me off my feet.
He put me right on the defense. And it actually happened. I
sent him whatever I thought he ought to have in the Shreveport
market. So you asked me how I got established --I'll tell you
that's one of the many incidents in my establishing myself.
Those are the things that have always been very dear to me,
and frankly, it's been a wonderful experience, and I can truthfully
say that my business has been good. It's been a good business. I
just wish I had someone with me to continue, and I am very unfortunate
that I don't have anybody. I'm a one-man deal. And I was saying
downstairs to a friend of mine that I should incorporate and get a
young man to continue because I think we're in our infancy, and I
think people are going to drink more wine--premium wines especially,
good red and whites. And when I see all the improvements taking
place out here — like I was at Krug--my gracious, they're building a
plant up there that's terrific, the Mondavis. I just think that
they're looking for the future, and I do, too. I just hope I live
long enough to see the wine sales just double, because frankly,
we're going up and up and I think it's wonderful.
THE NEW ORLEANS MARKET IN 1969
Teiser: Have you increased sales as much in New Orleans as in other parts
of the country?
Block: Well, we have... Of course, don't forget this tod ay- -formula
wines have come into our market pretty strong, which is a little
bit away from the regular wines.
Teiser: You mean special flavored wines?
Block: Special flavor wines.
Teiser; Do people drink them there?
Block: Yes, they do. Now in the northern part of the state--! don't know
whether you want me to mention names or not—well, the Thunderbird
is a very good seller. And I go over to Georgia and Ripple is a
very good seller. And then in the New Orleans market, in Baton
Rouge, tokay fourteen per cent (we never heard of tokay being less
than twenty) is a very good seller, and it's flavored with a little
Concord I think. I'm not a production man; I think according to
my taste, so I don't want you to hold me to that. But frankly,
they're taking away from a lot of the conventional wines. Then
Bali Hai was in our market — very big--from Swiss Colony, a
tremendous seller. So, frankly, they've taken away a great deal
of the sales.
Teiser: Do you really think they're replacing table wines?
Block: Well, I won't say table wines. Dessert wines. Now, let me say this
Block: about table wines: table wines are going up and up, and the
youth is drinking table wines. When I say youth, I'm talking
about young couples, young married couples. And it's wonderful.
And I think any retail store that doesn't make a specialty of
selling tenths is making a big mistake, because it's a good size
for two--husband and wife. And I have a relative in the business.
My nephew has a very fine store, and I made him put in a lot of
tenths, and he's selling a lot of them. I think dry wine is on
the increase, no question about that. The future of the business
is in the dry wine field.
Teiser: I keep wondering if the flavored wines aren't replacing whiskey
or rum or brandy.
Block: You mean hurting the sale?
Teiser: Yes. I wonder if some people aren't drinking Thunderbird instead
Block: I think you're right. I think you're absolutely correct. Of
course, the colored in my section are drinking the flavored wines,
and they're not drinking the bourbon. They're drinking Scotch,
and they're drinking Canadian. So it's bound to hurt the bourbon
Teiser: Is that right?
Block: That's what's happening in my section, yes.
Teiser: I've heard here, too, that Negroes here are drinking these flavored
Block: Yes, flavored wines, and Scotch, and V.O. or Canadian Club, the
Canadian whiskeys and not so much the bourbon whiskey.
Teiser: Why Scotch?
Block: It's very unusual, because it has an unusual flavor and taste.
But don't forget this now, that as they say down my way, in the
New Orleans territory, you know, it's a snob bottle—a bottle of
Scotch- -and they like to spend, and that's it.
I think this is of interest to you- -some thing that I think
has happened in the New Orleans market --and I'm bringing you up
to date now. This nephew of mine who just erected a hundred and
fifty thousand dollar building for his retail store, and a magnif
icent store, I've succeeded after all these years in having him
to set off a part of his space for American wines with a large sign
"American Wines." And he has all the varietals and all the wines
from out here, and he handles approximately, well, I'd say his
inventory on imports is about ten to twelve thousand cases, which
is a lot of wine for a retailer. But since he erected this
particular store, the sale of his American wines has just gone up
threefold. It's really amazing. And people now are beginning to
drink a lot of California wines down our way who formerly drank a
lot of imports.
You must remember, you see, we've got a lot of French
restaurants in New Orleans, and for that reason they push the French
Block: wines. But we're gradually beginning to make a lot of headway
with the restaurant trade.
Teiser: Do you see any change that's taken place as a result of the
national companies taking an interest in the wine business?
Block: I don't think so, up to now. I think they cannot do anything but
good. I don't think they're going to destruct. I think if they
destruct it's going to be merely for the purpose of constructing
instead of destruct ing. So they may pull out here, but eventually
I think they will do a lot of constructive work toward merchandising,
pricing, quality, and I think they will possibly make sure that
their sales organization is good, which is essential and is one
thing that I have found that so many salesmen in the Eastern
market, even with my wholesalers (and I hold sales meetings very
often). I never tell a man how to sell wine; I usually say, "Ask
me the questions so I can give you the answers about wine." And
so many wholesalers don't know anything about wines, and they don't
know how to impart that information to the salesmen. But I think
that's what's going to take place from here on in, myself.
Teiser: Gallo seems to have built a new kind of sales organization.
Block: Oh, yes. I didn't mean winery organization. I mean a wholesaler's
organization. Mr. Gallo has been very successful with his method.
He has the manpower and the advertising, so he's doing a lot of
Mr. [Kenneth C.] Bertsch down there, the sales manager, is
a very good friend of mine. Mr. Joiner * one of the vice-presidents,
is a good friend, and Ernie and I have been good friends for many,
many years, and I admire him and I admire his tactics.
I think he's done a magnificent job. Wonderful. Wonderful.
And I think that all the wineries out here are profiting a little
bit by what he's been doing, because they realize--! think a lot
of them that I've spoken to in the last two years --that they've
got to do something if they want to stay in business, whether it
be sales organization or advertising, to see that that merchandise
with demand is put on the shelf. Because after all if it isn't
exposed, how can you sell it? So he has really followed, I would
say, from the time the wine leaves a winery to the wholesaler to
the retailer, he has really followed each bottle. Let's put it
that way. And I don't think I can describe it any better than that.
It's been wonderful, and I admire him for what he's done.
One of the things that I always remember vividly, when those
tank cars first came into New Orleans, they just took the six one-
thousand gallon redwood tanks on the old PFE car, Pacific Fruit
Express, and they were so close together, I couldn't get my man
hardly to pass the hose to unload the wine.** And now I'm selling
**See also p. 12
Block: jumbo tank cars of twenty thousand gallons that are so accessible
and so easy to handle, you know. And when I think back on those
cars, really and truly, it...
Teiser: Did you ever have any wine spoil in those tanks?
Block: No, I didn't. The only trouble was that the men had to get on
the top to clean them out, and the manhole was so small to get in
them to make sure that the redwood was clean by the time it got
back to California. And as I say, when I draw a comparison between
those cars of those days and today. 1 We use the jumbo tank cars
today because I do sell bulk wine too.
Teiser: They couldn't ship anything back in them, could they?
Block: Oh, no. They came back empty. And the same thing here today.
They come back empty. But that's one thing I've often thought
about. And then the ten cents a quart for wine down in my section,
which was amazing.
Teiser: Of course, nothing cost too much in those days. The whole scale...
Block: Well, we didn't have any tax on the wine, don't forget that.
Jeff Peyser saw me today, and he said to me, "Well, what do
you think is going to happen at the next session?" of the
Louisiana state legislature. Well, we didn't worry about that in
those days. No taxes. The only thing we had was the wine, the
freight, and the price of the barrel, which made a lot of difference
We're still very fortunate down there. Mr. Peyser's lawyers
get in touch with me all the time, and we still have in effect (and
Block: I was instrumental with Mr. Huey Long in getting this tax) only
ten cents on dry wine, on table wine, and twenty cents on dessert
wines. Whereas in certain sections, take Florida, $1.60 a gallon
on dessert wines and $1.15 on table wines. So we've been very
fortunate in the New Orleans area. And the cooperation out here
has been very good as far as the Wine Institute is concerned.
Any time we were in trouble we can always call on them.
Teiser: Thank you very much. This has been an interesting interview.
Block: Well, it's been a pleasure.
Transcriber: Betty Dubravac
Final Typist: Keiko Sugimoto
INDEX - Sydney Block
Adams, Hall, 34
Adams, Hugh, 34
Adams, Leon, 13, 14
Arakelian, K. , 22
Baccigaluppi, Harry, 33
Barlotti, James A., 31-33
Bertsch, Kenneth C. , 41
Block, Joseph, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 21, 26
Block, Leonard, 1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 26
Brandenstein, , 17
Brun & Chaix, 6, 7, 20
California Dispatch Line, 12
California Wine Association, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 22, 34
Ciprico, Eugene S. (Sam), 12, 17, 30
Desangles, Armand, 19
dessert wine, 3, 20, 37, 43
Dreyfus , B . , and Company , 2 , 18
Eddinger Brothers & Jacobi, 1, 2, 6
flavored wines, 37, 38, 39
French-American Wine Company, 5, 20
Fruit Industries, Ltd., 16, 23, 34
Gallo, Ernest (Ernie), 13, 14, 39-41
Garret t & Company, 34
Giacona family, 28, 29
Guasti, Secondo, 6, 9, 11, 30, 31, 32, 33
Harris, Tom, 31-32
Jacob! , A. Leonard, 16, 17
Jacobi, Jacob J. , 16, 17, 18
Joiner, Lloyd, 41
Jones, Lee, 32
Krug Winery, 36
Lachman, Abraham, 17-18
Lachman, Arthur, 18
Lachman, Arthur, & Company, 5, 18
Lachman & Jacobi, 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 20, 22, 26, 27, 28
L & J (Lachman & Jacobi) (label), 15, 16, 17, 26, 27
Lanza, Horace, 33
Lazard, Calme, 4-5
Long, Huey, 43
Mafia, 27-28, 29
Martini, Louis M. , 5
Mattei, A., 6, 11, 32, 33
Mondavi family, 36
Morrow, A.R. , 6-7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 23, 24, 34
National Distillers, 34
New Orleans, passim
Nouveau Medoc Winery, 7
Old Abbey (label), 5
Pacific Fruit Express, 12, 41
Perelli-Minetti, Antonio, 30
Perelli-Minetti family, 16
Peyser, Jefferson, 42
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, 8
Prati, Enrico, 25, 30
Prohibition, 6, 11, 15, 22, 23, 24, 27, 29
raisins, 23, 28
Repeal, 15, 16, 24, 34, 35
Rosenblatt brothers, 5, 19, 20. See also Seven Brothers
Rossi, Edmund, 16, 23, 24, 25, 30, 34, 35
Rossi, Robert, 16, 23, 24, 34, 35
Schenley Distillery, 35
Schilling, C. & Company, 6, 7, 10, 11
Schuster, Dave, 35-36
Seven Brothers, 5
Southern Pacific Transportation Company, 27
Sutro, Alfred, 8, 24
"Sweet Vino", 12-15, 27
table wines, 3, 15, 20, 22, 37-38, 43
tank cars, 11, 41-42
"tipo" bottles, 23
Uddo-Taormina, 26, 27
Virginia Dare Company, 34
West, George, & Sons, 2
Winehaven, 11, 17
Wine Institute, 43
wine prices, 20, 21
Wines Mentioned in the Interview
Bali Hai, 37
champagne, 24, 25
claret, 3, 22
rose, 13, 14, 15
"Sweet Vino", 12-15, 27
Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay
Area in 1932 and has lived here evep since.
Stanford University, B.A. , M.A. in English;
further graduate work in Western history.
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco
since 19^3, writing on local history and busi
ness and social life of the Bay Area.
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle,